Profile for American Hodag, Sheeshed horribilus
The American Hodag is a large lizard with short legs and a streamlined body. The upper body is generally dark
green and the underside is pale yellowish-green.
The reclusive American Hodag is found throughout northern Wisconsin and they are
equally at home on the ground and in trees. They may be found in almost any habitat, but are most common in
wooded areas with an abundance of fallen trees and stumps to hide behind. The American Hodag prefers moister
habitats and are particularly common in bottom-land forests and along wooded river margins.
The American Hodag is usually found on the ground and they are generally less arboreal (tree dwelling) than most
Wisconsin lizards. Although sometimes seen in the open, these lizards are most often found in densely
forested areas. When pursued, American Hodags generally run for their underground den and can be quite difficult
to capture. Like many other lizards, the American Hodag will break off their tails when restrained, distracting
the predator and allowing the lizard to escape.
in 1893, newspapers reported the discovery of a Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It was described as having "the head of a frog, the grinning
face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears
at the end. The reports were instigated by well-known Wisconsin land surveyor, timber cruiser and prankster
Eugene Shepard, who rounded up a group of local people to capture the animal. The group reported that they
needed to use dynamite to kill the beast.
||Wolves, Coyotes, Bears
The American Hodag is North America's largest lizard. Adults can be up to seven feet long
and weigh over 300 pounds. The American Hodag has webbed feet with a 3-foot tail that it uses
to help maintain its balance when climbing trees. It will also slap its tail against the water
to signal danger or to warn away predators. The American Hodag has short front legs with
heavy claws. Their rear legs are longer and they use their rear webbed feet to help propel
themselves through the water as they are excellent swimmers.
The back and tail of the American Hodag is covered with triangular-shaped scales that is uses
to fend off predators. It has prominent curved upper incisors that extend up to 4 inches long
and arching horns above its ears.
American Hodags are carnivorous generalists with sophisticated foraging preferences. They consume small
mammals, snakes and fish. Their diet varies considerably in both composition and species diversity by
region and season.
Male Hodag Mating Call
The American Hodag is solitary except for mating. Males call using grunts in distinct phrases: argh-
argh-argh-argh. They mate when they are about 2 years old and mating occurs throughout April. Gestation lasts
about 3 months and females have one litter of hatchlings a year from July to August.
The female digs a small nest cavity in loose soil and deposits between 4 to 10 eggs (typically 4-6).
There is no covering on the eggs, but the female guards the eggs during the 3-month-long incubation
period. The eggs increase in size during incubation. The babies are precocial (able to move around on
their own) when they are born, and leave the den with 2 weeks, exploring outside the den with their mother.
Juvenile hodags have been killed at an alarming rate in spring when first foraging on their own in auto
accidents. Warning signs are posted throughout Northern Wisconsin to alert motorists to avoid juvenile
American Hodags crossing roadways.
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